Naturally occurring enzymes are critical to the healthy functioning of our bodies. We produce upwards of 3,000 types of enzymes, which contribute to the construction, maintenance, and repair of every cell in the human body.
In essence, enzymes are chemicals that serve as catalysts for various crucial biological functions, like digesting food, healing wounds, and controlling inflammation. However, our bodies don’t always produce all the ones we need, and as we age, we produce lower quantities of enzymes. That’s where systemic enzymes come in.
What Are Systemic Enzymes?
So, what are systemic enzymes, exactly, and what are the systemic enzyme benefits? Systemic enzymes are a type of dietary supplement designed to help the human body function properly. When taken orally, proteolytic enzymes (such as bromelain, papain, and protease) can help prevent, control, and reduce some symptoms of aging and various diseases.1
What Are the Benefits of Systemic Enzymes?
Scientists have been studying the beneficial effects of systemic enzymes for decades. Here are some of the known medical advantages of taking a systemic enzyme supplement.
Systemic Enzymes Fight Inflammation
Enzymes have natural inflammation-fighting properties. When our bodies are wounded, inflammation is a natural immune response that helps us comprehend that we’re injured so we take action to help ourselves.2
However, chronic inflammation (or inflammation that doesn’t respond to treatment) can be a self-perpetuating problem. The natural role of enzymes within the body is to help reduce and eliminate inflammation.
For this reason, taking systemic enzymes as a dietary supplement can help speed up healing and make up for any shortcomings in enzymatic production. For instance, the proteolytic enzyme known as papain, which is derived from the papaya fruit, has a clinically proven effect of expediting wound healing.
Systemic Enzymes Can Treat Inflammatory Conditions
Doctors have also long known that systemic enzymes can be used to treat the symptoms of chronic inflammation like osteoarthritis. Bromelain is particularly effective at this task. Derived from pineapples, the natural proteolytic enzyme is considered safe for most patients. Many dietary supplements combine bromelain and papain with other enzymes to form a safe and effective treatment.
Additionally, enzymes may be able to reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. Even for those who don’t suffer from a chronic condition, a mild dietary supplement of systemic enzymes has been shown to reduce gas and bloating, especially after meals.
Systemic Enzymes Reduce Fibrosis
As we age, our bodies develop scars both large and small. Scar tissue, known as fibrosis, can have many negative effects on the body. For one, organs can become less efficient when they get clogged with fibrosis, and in severe cases, scar tissue can cause terminal conditions like cystic fibrosis
The bloodstream can also become clogged with what’s known as fibrin, the excess debris created by the natural cell-shedding process. While our livers are primarily responsible for clearing out fibrin from the blood vessels, they can become less efficient with age.
Proteolytic means “protein eating.” And since fibrin and fibrosis are primarily made of proteins, proteolytic enzymes are very good at reducing them in the body. Systemic enzyme supplements can help counteract the symptoms of uterine fibroids as well.
Clearing excess fibrin from the body can help the immune system operate more efficiently. Specifically, removing excess fibrin from white blood cell receptors allows them to work at full capacity.
Additionally, it can minimize the risk of strokes and heart attacks by reducing the likelihood of blood clots. As such, people experiencing heart disease often take systemic enzymes to clean out and thin their blood.
Systemic Enzymes Help Digestion
Systemic enzymes are commonly used to help people struggling with digestive issues. But even in otherwise healthy people, taking a dietary supplement of proteolytic enzymes with meals can have many beneficial effects, as they help the body absorb nutrients and proteins while easing the discomforts often associated with digestion.
Controlled studies have shown that people who might normally experience gas, bloating, and feelings of fullness after eating may see a reduction in symptoms by taking systemic enzymes with meals.
Systemic Enzymes Can Help Treat Pancreatic Insufficiency
Digestive enzymes, which are naturally produced by the pancreas, play a central role in turning food into energy. When someone has a condition that causes a reduced output of these digestive enzymes, it’s referred to as pancreatic insufficiency.
One of the leading causes of pancreatic insufficiency is cystic fibrosis. The condition occurs when harmful scar tissue forms in the pancreas and interferes with pancreatic function. Cystic fibrosis can be incredibly painful and lead to weight loss or even malnutrition in patients who can no longer efficiently digest food.
Systemic enzyme therapy can be used to treat pancreatic insufficiency through the administration of dietary supplements like bromelain, papain, and other enzymes. When taken with meals, these enzymes help stimulate the body’s natural digestive processes.
Systemic Enzymes Therapy Can Help Fight Cancer
Many cancers have an immunosuppressive effect that reduces the body’s natural disease-fighting mechanisms. Systemic enzyme supplements have been shown to counteract the immunosuppressive effects of certain types of cancers.
Some enzymes have been shown in laboratory studies to kill cancers outright. In fact, physicians sometimes inject proteolytic enzymes directly into tumor sites to help kill cancer cells.
Lots of folks take systemic enzymes as a prophylactic against cancer. While wide-scale clinical trials haven’t been conducted to test their efficacy in preventing cancer, many practitioners agree cleansing the body of excess fibrin can help improve immune system function, which is crucial in the fight against cancer.
Systemic Enzymes Promote Wound Healing
Systemic enzymes have been clinically proven to speed up the rate at which wounds heal. Animal studies found that bromelain and papain accelerate wound healing when applied topically to the skin.3
Another study of Bromelain demonstrated that a 5-milligram dose taken orally sped up the healing process for people recovering from cosmetic surgery. A similar trial showed that the enzyme serrapeptase accelerated healing in patients recovering from dental surgery.4
Proteolytic enzymes may also help reduce exercise-related muscle soreness. Several placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated that post-workout muscle soreness can be greatly reduced with bromelain and curcumin.
Systemic Enzymes are Safe and Non-toxic
Systemic enzymes are generally recognized as safe, non-toxic substances. There is currently no known lethal dose, and in fact, the worst symptom of a very high dose of systemic enzymes tends to be nausea.
Bear in mind that some enzymes are known to have blood-thinning effects. Bromelain, for example, helps cleanse the blood vessels of excess fibrin, which has the effect of thinning the blood. So, anyone taking a blood thinner should consult with their healthcare provider before beginning a proteolytic enzyme regimen.
Also, known allergies should be an important consideration for anyone looking to supplement their diet with proteolytic enzymes. Most are derived from plants, fruits, animals, and fungi. So those allergic to pineapples, for instance, could be allergic to bromelain. An allergic reaction to proteolytic enzyme supplements may cause a mild skin rash.
How to Increase Systemic Enzymes: Natural Sources vs. Supplements
Foods Rich in Natural Enzymes
Natural digestive enzymes can be obtained from certain foods, including fruits like pineapple, papaya, mango, and kiwifruit, as well as fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.5 These enzymes can help improve digestion by breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. However, it can be challenging to consume these foods in sufficient quantities to experience their full benefits, so supplementation may be necessary for targeted therapeutic effects.
It’s important to note that while some foods are rich in proteolytic enzymes, there is not enough evidence to suggest that enzyme-rich foods help digestion. That is why systemic enzymes, which can go beyond the digestive tract and into the bloodstream, can be taken as supplements between meals on an empty stomach. However, note that it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any supplement regimen.
When Supplementation Might Be Necessary
Supplementation is often recommended when specific health goals or conditions require higher enzyme levels than can be obtained through dietary sources alone. Supplementation may also be necessary when specific health goals or conditions require higher enzyme levels than can be obtained through dietary sources alone.6 For example, individuals with chronic inflammation, scar tissue issues, or compromised immune function may benefit from systemic enzyme supplements.
Learn More About Proteolytic Enzymes
The best way to avoid adverse effects when taking proteolytic enzymes is to consult with a specialist at Immunity Therapy Center who will design a personalized proteolytic enzyme supplement plan to meet your unique needs. Our team will work with you to determine which decisions will benefit you most with minimal side effects.
At Immunity Therapy Center, we take the wellness of our patients very seriously, and we want to help you achieve the best treatment outcomes. Contact us today to learn more about how systemic enzymes assist with your overall health goals and other alternative therapies you can consider to effectively address your cancer.
- What Are Systemic Enzymes and What Do They Do? Ann Arbor Holistic Health 2015. https://annarborholistichealth.com/2015-4-29-what-are-systemic-enzymes-and-what-do-they-do/
- Proteolytic Enzymes: How They Work, Benefits and Sources by Jillian Kubala | Healthline Media 2018. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/proteolytic-enzymes
- Understanding Digestive Enzymes: Why Are They Important? by James Roland | Healthline Media Year. https://www.healthline.com/health/why-are-enzymes-important
- BounceBack™ capsules for reduction of DOMS after eccentric exercise: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover pilot study by Jay Udani, Balwant Singh, Vijay J Singh, Elizabeth Sandoval | Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Springer Science+Business Media Year: 2009 Volume: 6 Issue: 1 DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-6-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2698827/
- 12 Foods That Contain Natural Digestive Enzymes by Ryan Raman | Healthline Media 2018. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-digestive-enzymes
- Digestive Enzymes and Digestive Enzyme Supplements | Hopkinsmedicine.org 2022. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/digestive-enzymes-and-digestive-enzyme-supplements
- When to Take Digestive Enzymes: A Simple Guide | Takecareof.com Year: 2022. https://www.takecareof.com/articles/when-to-take-digestive-enzymes-a-simple-guide
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.